Ghost Stories Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     April 25, 2006
Release Date: April 11, 2006


Ghost Stories Vol. #4
© ADV Films


What They Say
Poor Satsuki. Her award-winning art project doesn't just get her an A, it gets her a dead artist intent on trapping her inside her own painting! And when ghost-obsessed Leo finds the spirit of a corpse bride, the deliriously devout Momoko winds up getting dangerously close to meeting her beloved Lord and Savior "for good! To make matters worse, there's a nasty little coven of witches haunting the halls of the kids' school. But this ghostly academy isn't the only zip code going to hell in a handbasket. Because there's a haunted housing project where the residents do more than just steal cable, they steal your soul. So sign up for a creepy class with the most hilarious elementary school hellions to you've ever seen!


The Review!
Another round of standalone tales dealing with the freed spirits provide for some chills and minor thrills once more.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. This series has a pretty standard stereo mix which has both dialogue and sound effects being well used across both channels and in a full sense. Right from the start the dialogue has some good placement in order to be scary and it moves across the forward soundstage in a good manner. This is the kind of mix that would have been better in 5.1 from the start so it could move things around better but the stereo mix does a good job overall. In listening to both tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2000, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. For a show of this time period where a lot of studios were in a transitional phase from standard to CG productions still, it looks remarkably good and avoids a lot of the problems some of the studios had at the time. Most of the obvious CG work is relegated to camera movements such as fast handy-cam shakiness movements down hallways and the like. Other areas are some of the more supernatural elements which should look otherworldly so they fit in nicely as well. There's a bit of aliasing in some of the usual places but cross coloration is a non issue. Colors are mostly solid, though some of the darker colors show a bit of breakup at times, and while not a terribly vibrant looking show it maintains a good consistent feel. This isn't a show that would knock one out of the park in terms of visuals but the transfer here does a solid job overall.

Packaging:
The Japanese artwork is used once again this time but it doesn't mesh up well with the episodes on the disc as it has things I think are more relevant to the last volume as it shows Satsuki's mother and a ghost from the past. The artwork here is nicely detailed and the reaper in particular has a good design to it. The back cover goes for a standard school approach with a lined paper background that has several shots from the show and a pretty decent snarky summary of what to expect from the dubbed version. The discs production and extras information is pretty cleanly listed while the technical grid continues to list all the important information in a very effective manner.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty simple across the board with one of the ghost images with the white cloak flowing from it making up a portion of the left half and the white spreading through the bottom half while a basic blue background is along the top. The selections are all lined along the white area and it has a very quick and simple feel to it that's a step or two above some of the older ADV releases that didn't even have artwork in the menu. Access times are nice and fast but the disc has a problem in doing up the player presets properly. Fixing an issue with the first volume, the accurate subtitles are now the first track on the disc so if you default to Japanese with English via player defaults, it will now properly pick it up..

Extras:
The extras section is a bit deceptive here since it looks so minimal. The basics are here in having the clean opening and closing sequences and there's a ghost profiles section as well. The profiles cover each of the ghosts in this volume a short but interesting bit.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ghost Stories moves along at a fairly good pace across the set of four episodes on this disc and while it doesn't provide any sort of radical departure from what's come before, such as a real story arc or anything that changes the overall dynamic, it continues to tell some fun little stories with mild twists on classic tales. There aren't any real shockers or scary moments here unless you're easily frightened or under the age of six. Unless you count the dub.

The framework remains the same as the characters go through their daily lives and school routines only to find new kinds of ghosts and spirits that are causing trouble now that they've been awakened. Thankfully for Satsuki and the others, when they freed them all they didn't just start going wild all at the same time but managed to spread out their trouble. Satsuki ends up being the center of trouble in a couple of episodes on this volume which isn't surprising either as she's sort of the focal point of a lot of this. The opening episode is an amusing piece which brings in a dead artist who used to do portraits in the school and he has the ability to paint the young women who then disappear and end up in the painting itself. Residing in the abandoned school building, his presence is flowing over into other peoples artwork and the kids investigation leads to Momoko being drawn into his grasp. It's a straightforward piece but it's fun as Momoko gets to dress up a bit and the artist is fun to watch as he's just an animated skeleton " with hair!

The other Satsuki episode is interesting as it shows that spells and magic are making their presence known in the school as one of the students, Shinobu, is teaching some tricks to some of the girls. The stuff is part of the usual kind of routine a lot of Japanese kids go through with various luck items, colors and other trinkets but it builds up to a new level as the spells starting getting a bit more powerful. Satsuki initially isn't part of the core group that's working towards something with wishes becoming reality but she's able to get inside of it only to find that the spells they're playing with are warping reality and the girls slowly start disappearing to a point where nobody but them remembers them. Satsuki is kept relatively alone on this one and even pushes away others because of the clique nature of what's going on so it lets her have to deal with things mostly on her own, a nice change from the group dynamic.

While Leo doesn't exactly get an episode to himself, he leads the group with one of the more interesting episodes on the release as he brings everyone to a train crossing location where there have been recent sightings of a ghost. He intends to snaps some pictures so they can have something new to investigate but in doing so, he gets a picture of a spirit that's wrapping itself around Momoko and causing her to fall ill. Everyone is kept away from Momoko as the doctors struggle to figure out what's going on so Leo tries to take charge on his own by resolving the situation. Of course, he only makes it worse but as it progresses we start to learn more about the situation with this spirit and the history of the location. There are some good chills and minor scares to be had here as Leo isn't as clear headed as Satsuki tends to be.

There's little change here from the episodes that have come before as everything is kept nicely contained in one episode, Amanojaku gets in a few snide comments here and there and there's some amusingly mild fanservice on occasion. The stories are nothing terribly new if you're familiar with the genre though some of the interpretations are interesting to see since it's done in a mild enough manner for a younger audience. In fact, I was surprised while watching it that my six year old sat down next to me and decided to watch it. It meant I was on "nightmare duty" if she woke up but to her credit she found the show neat to look at and asked lots of questions. It's unfortunate I couldn't let her listen to the dub though so she could know more on her own since it's not something for young ears like that.

In Summary:
I don't want to harp on the English adaptation much but I'm glad that the Japanese side is done properly because it is a fun little show that's very well done and hits a lot of good marks with it. It's not a standout piece and is certainly a product of its time as there was a huge horror rush on so it's interesting from that perspective to see something that's aimed a bit older shifted down a bit but not removing all of the scariness from it. This volume has several good episodes to it and was a lot of fun to watch. It's easy to see where its fans are coming from in why they enjoy it because it is just very well done.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Ghost Profiles,Clean opening animation, Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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